A: As a child, you probably heard this familiar refrain from your parents: “If you eat too many sweets, they’ll rot your teeth out.” As an adult, you may have wondered whether this bit of wisdom was true. According to Ankeny dentist Dr. Erika Peddicord, the answer is complicated.
“Sugar itself does not cause tooth decay,” says Dr. Peddicord. “However, the presence of sugar in the mouth can create conditions that encourage the development of tooth decay.”
For example, when you drink a glass of pop, particles of sugar are left behind in your mouth. Bacteria feed on these sugar particles. As the bacteria digest the sugar, they create a by-product that makes your saliva more acidic (having a pH level of 5.5 or lower). These acids take the minerals out of your tooth enamel, leaving behind chalky white patches known as “carious lesions,” the earliest stage of tooth decay and cavity formation.
The simplest way to raise the pH of your mouth is to brush your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste after consuming sweets. Other scientifically proven methods include chewing sugarless gum that contains xylitol and having fluoride applications at your dental checkups.
To schedule a checkup with Dr. Peddicord and talk to her about healthy at-home habits, please call our office at (515) 963-3339.
Information provided by Dr. Erika Peddicord, Peddicord Family Dentistry, 121 N.E. 18th St., Suite C, 963-3339.